Monday, March 24, 2014

What's Your Comfort?

Writing Assistant
I’m racing against a couple of deadlines, and I’m suffering the writer’s afflictions of self-doubt and not-enough-time. I need comfort.

When I write, I often have a playlist of music that might include medieval polyphony, Louis Prima jazz, Ne-Yo smoothness, and lately, my soul has been aching with A Great Big World and Christina Agullera as they beg a beloved to say something before love is lost.

Saturday, the music stopped working, and I moved on to movies I’ve seen so many times I soak in familiar voices and words that slide to the background as I write. I turned to Hulu, which suddenly offered me the BBC’s 1980 Hamlet, starring Derek Jacobi. I saw this when I was too young to recognize Patrick Stewart as Claudius or David Robb (the delightful Doctor Clarkson from Downton Abbey) as Laertes. I first read Shakespeare as a child because I learned to read in the books on my father’s bookshelves, so Shakespeare’s rhythms and wordplay wake the memory of those yellowed pages beneath my fingers and the scent of salt and sea sliding through the metal web of a window screen.

I laughed when Hamlet first told Horatio he’d seen his father, and Horatio, who truly had seen the elder Hamlet’s ghost, asked him so earnestly, “Where?” I cried when the ghost demanded his son remember him. I worried as Hamlet shucked off the humanity that kept him from revenge-killing instantly, and I yelled at Gertrude and Laertes and Hamlet to stop drinking and fighting with all the poison.

Taking a Closer Look, Via the Keyboard
After I found Hamlet, I began to think of other things I’ve loved, a commercial that was popular when my son was born—new parents meeting their brand new baby, while a song called “Julie through the Glass” played. I wept with that song, and cuddled my own brand new boy, and didn’t even notice when it stopped playing. Six years later, my daughter was born. I was pretty sick, and we stayed in the hospital for over a week. The morning we left, I felt kind of ill, and I was worried about various things as I packed my bag. All of a sudden, on the television in my room, the familiar song began to play. I turned to see Julie’s mom peering through the glass, watching her daughter thrive and grow, and that was comfort I don’t have words to describe.

And, finally, I have a relatively new comfort. My writing assistant, George, who hangs out and occasionally attacks my cursor or my fingers, or both. We lost our 20-year-old cat last year, and I never thought I could love another pet friend like I loved Kitty. (I’d never been much of a cat person, but my family wanted Kitty.) Twenty years later, I was the one providing his geriatric care, and when he left us, I felt broken. Finally, after many months, my brother-in-law persuaded me that loving another catty was not a betrayal to Kitty. Somewhere, a kitten needed us as much as we needed kitten cuddles. George stole my heart the second he strolled out of his fosterer’s carrier. He isn’t always a cuddler, but when I’m working into the wee hours, as wakeful as Hamlet’s ghost, Georgie does my sleeping by proxy, close by, where his company brings me joy because Kitty taught me to be a perfectly content cat lady. :)

What comforts you? What Hamlet from your past brings you back to a moment you loved? Or what brings you happiness now like my sweet orange writing assistant?

What familiar joy makes your work day happier?

19 comments:

  1. Awwww...I love George--he looks super attentive, Anna. :) My cat likes to sleep on the back of my chair as I write, LOL. When she's not trying to crawl on me. For writing "comfort", or to get myself in the zone, I have a CD of music/ocean sounds to listen to, but when I need background noise for inspiration, I pop in Ocean's 11 (the George Clooney version). I can recite that movie line for line, LOL. Or Victor/Victoria--love the music. Great post!

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  2. Georgie thanks you, Anna! I love that you're a kitty person, too! And your description of Oceans 11 is exactly what happens to me. I can recite my favorites so they're like visitors who don't mind if you ignore them while they chat away! :-) I haven't thought of Victor/Victoria in a while. I need to watch that again--such a good movie!

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  3. I find great comfort in my puppy in my lap or at my feet under my desk. But I also have my daughter's blanket (she's away at college). It's purple, bright and cheerful, and fuzzy. Tally likes to gnaw on the blanket's tag and slowly burn out her energy, falling asleep. Needed some comfort today. Thanks!

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  4. Oh, Mel! I get finding your daughter's blanket a comfort. (Obviously, the pup makes sense to me--cat lady, here!) But I want to hug you from here for cuddling in your girl's purple blankie! Come visit, and let's have a write-fest and wonder together why daughters want their own lives and selfishly refuse to live with us for always! ;-)

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  5. Okay, okay, I didn't want to read this blog about what an author needs to meet a deadline, but I'm glad I did: George is lovely! And his name (my males were/are Samson and Petey) makes me smile. My neighbour's cat was Kevin--I thought she was a true crazy cat lady. But not much difference between Sam, George, Kevin and Pete, I guess.... Hope he doesn't hurt a finger.

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    1. I'm glad you read, too, Victoria. I love your kitty names. Samson is a perfect cat name, and I have a brother named Pete! I love Kevin. Wonder if George needs a brother named Kevin. (My girl wants another orange kitten to name Fred, for the Weasley twins.)

      I should send you a pic of my kitten injuries. I look as if I've been enjoying some bad tattoo non-artistry. In G's eyes, I'm just another climbing tree!

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  6. Anna - I was just about to tell you that you're in good company. I have an office cat (Stormy - came to us in a storm. Not original, but he's a gray tempest, so it works), Pam Tracy writes with a cat wrapped around her neck, and Victoria is cat crazy - but I see she sniffed out the kitty conversation on the blog even on a Monday morning when she must be swamped! Many of us find comfort in our cats. I also have a nine-year-old Husky mix who sleeps on the futon in my office and lives for our coffee breaks. I find comfort everywhere - don't know how but a friendly neighbor, a spot of sunshine, something good will find me just when I need it. When I'm on a deadline, though, and in the position you describe (there is comfort in the knowledge that we all hit that spot at some point) I channel John Lennon and just "Let it Be." and what I need will eventually surface. I know I've said this over and over, but there's something in trusting your creative self. Believe in it and it'll be there. Like trusting a friend.

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    1. Muriel, first, you should do a post on trusting our creative selves because yours are valuable words. I didn't realize I was going to bump into deadline comfort over here today.

      Funny how many writers/editors are also cat-friends. Maybe it's because kitties are like us--want to be friendly--but we have our own worlds--all those words tugging at us. LOL on Pam writing with a cat around her neck. I'd love to see a photo of your Husky. Does he have those gorgeous blue eyes?

      I'm heading back to my ms. now, and I'm determined to "Let it Be." Thank you for some perfect wisdom just when I needed it. :-)

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  7. I no longer have any animals. When my last kitty went to kitty heaven I couldn't face going through that again. I nursed a dog and 3 cats through major illnesses and reached a point where I get pleasure putting animals in my books. I like to write to raucous country-western music. Don't ask me why. Love the post Anna. It's nice to read everyone's answers.

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    1. Oh, Roz, that's where I was with Kitty. My husband was kind of feeling like you, that he couldn't take that again, but then Georgie came along, and the beloved is as nuts for George as I am. (He tried to hang back, but G charmed him.) How on earth do you write to raucous C&W? I'm only just now learning to love country, but I think my love may actually be for Keith Urban. I'm confused... :-)

      Thanks for sharing, Roz. I'm going to try not to hope a lovely little kitten or pup doesn't come knocking on your door--which happened to my brother-in-law when he'd decided he didn't want to risk losing his heart to another pet. I love hearing everyone's answers, too. Being new here, I'm enjoying getting to know everyone!

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  8. My dogs comfort me. They are with me all day while I write - inside or out - and I totally enjoy their company.

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    1. I always love your photos of your crowd of writing assistants--all entwined as a rule! They would be a comforting crowd!

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  9. Comforted by being outside here in Northern, CA and my sweetie German Shepard who could teach the world a thing or two about unconditional love.

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    1. Dana, I love to work outside. In the summer, I swim and write and swim and write. Lovely way to cool off and to plot my next step. We had a German Shepard when I was a child. She was the most loyal dog in the world. I miss her even now. You're right about unconditional love.

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  10. I have Tyre and his favorite time to cuddle is when I'm on the computer. He will lay with his head on my left hand, so I'm typing with headweight!

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    1. Tyre is the kitty who drapes around your neck, Pam? I love typing with a kitten head on my hand! (Especially rather than wrapped around my hand! :-)

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  11. Love the pic of your kitty assistant, Anna! Adorable! I have two cats (well technically still kittens as they're only 6 mos old), Storm and Nimbus. Nimbus thinks he's a dog and hangs out with my Labradoodles, but Storm...a brown tabby...likes to sit on my lap when I'm at the computer. Honestly, he'll sit on any lap that's parked in front of the computer. But in any case, he's so warm and with all the snow we've been having (again today) it's like having a hot water bottle on my lap lol. Oh and that soothing purrrrrrrrr. It must somehow charge our creativity ;).

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  12. Rula, purrs are definitely creativity generators! I saw you're having snowy weather again. I was just out in our back yard, and it's frosty cold, but the stars--they are a-shining!

    I'd love to see pics of your babies. Storm and Nimbus are about the same age as Georgie. Are the dogs and the cats all friends now?

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    1. They are friends now! It took 3 months and I wasn't sure it would happen, but they're all chummy lol. I credit the cats. They're better at training dogs than I am ;) lol. They have the canines totally under their little paws.

      I don't have recent pics up, but here they were when we first got them: http://www.awritersrush.blogspot.com/2013/11/new-kittens.html. Now all I have to do is get the dogs and cats to be friends with the chicks lol.

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